History of Sacred Heart Church
The first Sacred Heart Church was a wooden structure, established in 1890 by Bishop O'Connor, at 26th and Sprague Streets. The Pastor, Father John T. Smith, celebrated Mass there from 1890-1895 to forty families.
The church was built in a low area and "in wet weather one required either a boat or hip waders to reach the church". The next Pastor, Patrick J. Judge, moved the church structure in 1897. He located it in the 24th and Binney Streets area on land donated by Herman Kountze, a land developer who had promoted the 1989 TransMississippi Exposition at Kountze Park. Father Judge negotiated the contract with Kountze that a 100 x 124 foot plot of land would be donated if Father Judge build a brick or stone church costing no less than $8,000. The old wood church was used as a parish hall, clubhouse, and playground. The Sacred Heart compound was composed of the church, parish hall, clubhouse, rectory, grade school, and a high school.
Architects George Fisher and Harry Lawrie designed the new stone church. Sacred Heart's architectural style, Late Gothic Revival, harks back to the 14th century English gothic churches: hewn stone walls, lancet windows with tracery designs in the glass and etched detail in the limestone trim. The ceiling is crossvaulted, the roof is steeply pitched slate, and there is a tower that rises to 124 feet, surrounded by eight spiretopped buttresses.
The church's traditional shape roughly duplicates that of a Latin cross. Its top, at its western side, includes the rounded apse that rises over the main altar, with frescoes of Rome's St. Peter's on the left, Sacred Heart Church on the right, and stenciled ornamentations and hand-painted scenes by a local artist. The church was named to the National Register of Historical Places in 1983.
The side chapel contains something of interest for history buffs: the original altar from Nebraska Territory's first Catholic Church. The altar was a gift from the Trappists in 1856 and was put in the little church of St. Mary's at 8th and Howard Streets. Eventually the small church building was given to the Sisters of Mercy for a school building. The altar continued to be used by Bishop O'Gorman on special occassions as the state's first altar, until his death in 1874. It was given to Holy Family Parish for use in its school chapel in 1877 and then to Sacred Heart in 1890. The old altar is still used for occasional weekday Masses and whenever the Eucharist in celebrated in the Chapel of Our Lady.
Sacred Heart Parish Mission Statement:
We, the people of Sacred Heart, believing in God, and guided by the Holy Spirit, dedicate ourselves to forming a vibrant Christian community by: celebrating the presence of Jesus, serving the needs of the people, affirming the gifts of each person, and sharing lives and prayer, in love.